Sunday 29th November 2015 –
It was a real mood brightener. I’d just arrived and one of the first things I saw was three flashing police motorcycles in the centre of Foz do Iguazu – one complete with young kid posing with the officers. His parents were busy taking pictures of him. I felt things were going to be good being back in Brazil.
I headed off for what everyone does here in Foz. Iguazu falls. The Brazilian side – mainly because I’d heard the Argentine side was bigger and I really hadn’t gotten out of bed early enough for that. One of my more simple trips, I hopped on the bus cryptically marked “Iguazu Falls Brazil”. Here I met Kat and Ben, who I would conveniently befriend and hang out with for the day. Unfortunately, I don’t really have any pictures of them (as usual) because, well, I forgot.
Now, its a genuine debate amongst everyone as to which side of the falls is best, which is great – you never know before you go which you will like more. Some people prefer the supposedly better views on the Brazilian side, others lean toward the apparent closeness to the falls of the Argentine side. Others yet sit on the fence. It really means you’ve got to see both – assuming no visa issues of course. In truth, there’s a little of everything on both sides.
Anyway, back to the story at hand. Once at the entrance to the Brazil side we whizzed off on a bus to the falls. Straight away the views were pretty incredible – the water cascading over half a dozen falls on the other side of the river. A path along the edge took us closer to the action, new views of different falls constantly cropping up. It’s possible to zip along pretty quickly if you want here, but easy enough to get stuck watching the water spill over the edge too. Which is what we did.
At the end of the trail we reached the Devil’s throat, a semicircular arrangement of waterfalls where the boardwalk stretches out over the water and you can get a real glimpse of the power generated. Everybody here was standing around in their plastic made, but we went for the real experience. No coat. It may have been because I was using it to ingeniously act as a cover for my bag, but I’m going to claim it as an act of devilish bravery.
Slightly wetter than before, and now wishing the overcast weather would clear up so we could dry off a bit quicker, Kat, Ben and I set off again. We’d only been a few hours at the falls, so on Kat’s suggestion we went to the zoo/bird sanctuary down the road, which I hadn’t even heard about.
I’m certainly no bird enthusiast, but all I can say is that the ones here really were awesome. In all different shapes, sizes and amazingly vibrant colours, the zoo is littered with dozens and dozens of endangered species. They’re not all in standard cages either. Many of them are housed in giant cages that you can walk through, birds flying over and around you.
We were having a great time, the talkative toucans really standing out, until the inevitable happened. To me. Obviously. A bird…it…you know…released a less than solid projectile in my direction. Luckily, it all landed on my shirt, and while it took a hell of a lot of scrubbing back at the hostel, this meant I could take it off and not have to smell it all day. Aside from when in the cages of course.
Aside from the birds there were butterflies, snakes, spiders, turtles and a croc living happily in the pond with them! He didn’t seem to be perturbed by the turtles, nor they him – as I watched one was swimming right on his head. Daring.
Just before we left, we passed some macaws that had been rehabilitated. For various reasons, including caging and clipping,all were unable to fly. Despite having been maltreated in the past they were really friendly, and we all got to have one on our arm. Although the falls are the main attraction here, I think all three of us enjoyed the bird sanctuary just as much.
Managing to crawl out of bed slightly earlier the next day, I made my way to the Argentine side of the falls. Most people seemed to be doing it as an organised tour with the hostel for ease. No need to have any pesos or deal with any buses. It was 160 reais though, and considering the entrance fee was about 70 reais I decided I’d take my chances with public transport.
While I wouldn’t call it a mistake exactly, I certainly wouldn’t call it a success. By the time I’d arrived back I’d taken six different buses, the Argentine ones being particularly ridiculously priced for the distances they took me. Much of this was due to the fact that while they would stop and wait for you at the Argentine side to get a stamp, none would do so on the Brazilian side.
Stranded at Brazilian border control was where I met Katya and Stephen. They had do far had similar difficulty with buses, though theirs was due to the scheduled bus being late. Two hours late. Katya and Stephen had gotten married a few months back, and were currently on their honeymoon. Another couple who’s time I’d disrupt.
No, it wasn’t like that really. I did spend the day with them but I’d like to think I wasn’t too much of an annoyance. They certainly seemed to enjoy talking to me. We spoke about all sorts of things – from his difficult it is to get British citizenship after marriage (Katya is Russian) to travelling through Russia (something I would love to do at some point). It was a great day and that’s without mentioning the falls.
OK, so I’ll put it out there. While many people sit on the fence, I have a favourite does of the falls. It’s the Argentine side. It’s much larger, with many more paths to explore down and you genuinely feel much closer to the falls. I’ve seen a few now, and while you always get to see the view, feeling like you’re part of it is an experience that comes round much less frequently. And I mean really a part of it.
It’d be impossible to go through every aspect of the falls, but I felt that there was just so much more to this side. As well as standing at the bottom, there were spectacular views of the surrounding falls and islands. Along the furthest walkway, after taking the tiny train they have running here to its last stop and walking along the boardwalk over most of the river, you reach the biggest drop.
It’s at the top, and the wooden decking extends over the edge, the water visibly streaming under your feet. It cascades down as far as the eye can see, mainly due to the amount of foam created. The water surges over the giant precipice, and, if you’re lucky/unlucky/a complete dickhead, you can get caught by the spray as it comes back up again.
One last mention must go to the Fall’s permanent residents, the coatis. They’re a small, raccoon like animal, that knows it can get water food they want here, and they’re hilarious. Unsuspecting tourists are caught unawares by their conniving tactics – anything is fair game. Will, who I would meet shortly, carried a particular grudge. While taking some biscuits out of his bag, a coati grabbed them. The coati wouldn’t give up as he tugged them away though, manic in its aggression. Will was forced to throw the biscuits as far away as possible to get rid of the coati. It ate them, package and all.
The lesson? Don’t feed the coatis!